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Architecture in the forest

23 October 2006

Architectural research group sixteen*(makers) from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture are about to become the subject of an exhibition – ‘Assembling Adaptation’– documenting their ongoing work at Kielder Forest in Northumbria.

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Sixteen* (makers) were appointed by The Art and Architecture Partnership at Kielder as the first architects in residence at the forest  back in 2003 and have been working on the site ever since. The group consists of Lecturer Phil Ayres, Research Engineer Chris Leung and Senior Lecturer Bob Sheil. For Sheil the brief, or rather lack of it, has enabled them to explore an architecture which evolves in response to its environment: “No outcome was requested, only that we continue to explore our work within the context of the park. For the current phase of the residency, we have developed climate-responsive surveying tools or probes. These record and respond to the climate, which will in turn indicate how chosen environments can affect architecture which aspires to be adaptable to its location.”

The outcome of this has been a series of structures placed on ground once occupied by trees. The structures – metal poles, anchored to the ground – support 3mm cells, or leaves, which open and close according to changes in the temperature. These  fluctuations are recorded using time-lapse cameras while pyrometers measure solar irradiation, and sunlight sensors track the hours of sunlight. The resulting data has now been mapped on to a 3D model of the area, which will enable a digital picture to emerge over the next 40 years, by which time the structures will be completely covered by trees.

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An exhibition to summarise the outcome of the residency opens at The Building Centre, London on 4 December 2006. The work is also the subject of a feature article in the November 2006 issue of ‘Blueprint’ magazine.

Images: The cells process and collect data using state of the art technology